Fact Check

Do Disney Cruises Send Kids to Jeffrey Epstein's Private Island?

The claim is based on a cascade of bad-faith arguments.

Published June 1, 2023

Image Via Twitter
Disney cruises send, or have sent, children to the private island of convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

In late May 2023, viral posts on Twitter re-energized a long-standing claim that "Disney" via its cruise lines had been "sending kids to [Jeffrey] Epstein's island for snorkeling trips." 

Epstein was the disgraced billionaire who died in prison after being arrested on suspicion of child sex trafficking (and who previously had been convicted of child sex offenses). He owned a small island in the U.S. Virgin Islands named Little St. James. On a page last updated in 2018, a website unaffiliated with Disney advertised several purported optional excursions available to people on Disney cruises that stopped at St. Thomas and St. John Islands.

One of the trips, "Captain Nautica's Snorkeling Expedition," advertised for children 8 and up, included this description

Be whisked away aboard the captain's RIB power boat to a pair of sun-soaked snorkeling sites — and prepare for an adventure like no other. Journey to picturesque Turtle Cove, Buck Island and immerse yourself in an underwater wonderland, where you're invited to swim and snorkel amidst a school of sea turtles for approximately one hour. 

Afterward, make your way to your second snorkel stop — Little St James Island — where curious fish dart back and forth in the clear blue water, and colorful coral formations nestle next to amazing underwater formations. Afterward, enjoy a beverage and snack before making your way back to St Thomas Harbor.

The assertion that this entry provided evidence of Disney sending kids to Epstein's private island is false for several reasons. 

First and foremost, the claim is based on the incorrect assumption that snorkeling in the waters around a private island is the same as physically standing on that island. Touring companies leading trips to the waters around the island do not stop on the island itself, and they do not require permission from the owner of that island to swim in. 

Many Virgin Islands touring companies lead trips to these waters to this day. As one such company explains on its website, "Little St James is a small private island located off the southern coast of the larger St Thomas island. Although Little St James Island is private, visitors may still enjoy the water surrounding it." 

Second, the trip advertised is not one that is, or was, led by Disney. It was, instead, what is known as a "Port Adventure." These are activities recommended by Disney that can be found, for extra cost, when docked at various ports of call on Disney Cruises. 

"Port Adventures are not operated by Disney Cruise Line and are carefully selected to provide the best available experiences ashore," according to a list of excursions posted to The Disney Cruise Line Blog. This document also included "Captain Nautica's Snorkeling Expedition" as an option. 

Third, the website from which the viral images were taken is also unaffiliated with Disney. It is one of many websites whose goal is, or was, to drive people interested in Disney Cruises to travel agents. In April 2021, when this claim first went viral, Disney told The Associated Press that:

The island, as well as another location, were included in the description of a third-party tour so that participants could identify the areas where snorkeling would be available [...] The tour had no connection to the island itself and Disney has never had plans involving the island.

Because the viral image does not come from Disney and does not describe a Disney-run trip, and because the act of snorkeling around an island is not the same thing as visiting that island, we rate this claim as "False."


Disney Cruise Line How to Book. https://www.magicalkingdoms.com/cruise/planning/book.html. Accessed 1 June 2023.

Disney Cruise Line St Thomas & St John Excursions. https://magicalkingdoms.com/cruise/ports/stthomasexcur.html. Accessed 1 June 2023.

"FACT FOCUS: Posts Maligning Disney Lack Evidence." AP NEWS, 12 Apr. 2022, https://apnews.com/article/ghislaine-maxwell-science-business-jeffrey-epstein-florida-98deefe346a7e7abb79ce14a58512cf1.

"Little St James: A Private Island." BVI Yacht Charters, https://www.bvisail.com/us-virgin-islands-yacht-charter/little-st-james-island/. Accessed 1 June 2023.

Port Adventures: Tortola St Thomas - June-2016. https://disneycruiselineblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Port-Adventures-Tortola-St-Thomas-Fantasy-June-2016.pdf.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.